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Archive | March, 2012

Counting Plates (Part One)

Counting Plates (Part One)The restaurant industry has its own jargon.  It may also have its own language.  We have the titles we give positions and then we have the nicknames we use.  Every back of the house employee in America has learned to answer to the nickname “ahneeda.”

Not familiar with that name?

Stop and count how many times a server walks up to the expo window during a shift and shouts, “Ahneeda side of ranch dressing.”

Managers have their own nicknames for server.  It is the only slightly less condescending “Havyoo.”   They can be heard all evening asking, “Havyoo refilled the drinks on table 32?”

Of course servers have their own name for managers: “wieroutuv.”  How many times have you heard recently, “wieroutuv spoons.”?

Today, I am going to talk about the topic all managers dread: renewals. Let me begin by saying it is not your fault.  The system by which most restaurants order plates, glasses, tableware, etc is fundamentally flawed.  You have been set up in a system that forces you to fail either the people who work for you or the people you work for.

Even worse, the system does a tremendous disservice to the guest, who we are all supposed to be trying to please.

In the last few years, renewal budgets have been shrinking faster than Dane Cook’s income.  This is particularly true in corporate restaurants.  Pencil pushers trying to maintain dividends for shareholders have seen this as an easy place to pinch pennies.  You are trying to do more with less and hearing the complaints daily.  You go over budget, servers still complain, and the guest wonders why their meal is taking so long.

In order to sell food and beverages to your guests, you need plates, glasses, and silverware.  You cannot predict which type of plate or glass is going to be broken on any given night anymore than you can predict which dusty bottle of single malt is going to be needed for the service.

When the bottle of Glenfiddich that has sat on the shelf behind your bar for three years gets low, your order a new one.  When a plate breaks you get annoyed and try to ride it out until the next period.  The broken plate was responsible for generating more revenue during its time in your restaurant than the bottle of scotch was, but you are more likely to immediately restock the bottle.

The source of the double standard is how most restaurants account for these items.  Food and liquor costs are accounted for as costs of goods sold.  An unopened bottle of scotch technically does not cost you anything because it is considered inventory.  An unopened case of glasses goes straight to the bottom line.  Since the profit generated by a plate cannot be directly accounted for, it is not counted as inventory on hand.  As a result this non-perishable revenue generator is seen purely as an expense.

Food and beverages are not seen as expenses on the P&L until they leave inventory.  Whether it is as a result of being sold, wasted, comped, or thrown away, until it loses the ability to generate income, it is not considered an expense.  A plate is considered an expense as soon as the invoice arrives.  Before it even comes out of the box, it hits your P&L.

There is no way to account for the revenue it generates from the time it is ordered until the time it must be disposed of.

Actually, there is.  Plates, glasses, and silverware should be accounted for as inventory.  This means that the actual cost of these items is accounted for when it is no longer capable of generating revenue.  By doing an inventory of these items your expense is calculated on what you lose, not what you use.

This is a far more accurate way to account for costs.  We all know the formula: beginning inventory+purchases-ending inventory=costs of goods sold.  Divide the result by sales and you have a more realistic idea of what loss actually costs you.

There are several more advantages to accounting for renewals in this way.  Tomorrow, I will outline just a few of them.  I know many of you do not have the power to make this happen at your restaurant.  You do have the opportunity to take credit for discovering this brilliant idea and passing it on to your bosses.

For those of you who do have the authority to change this, I can attest to the fact that it works because I have done it.  This might be the idea that allows you to stop answering to the name “wieroutuv” and focus on running your restaurant.

Read Part Two here!

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How To Source Food Locally: A Business Guide To Success

How To Source Food Locally: A Business Guide To SuccessLocal food.  It sounds great on paper, and it may even be the thing restaurant patrons claim they care about most.  But the reality is that restaurants are businesses, and the restaurant business is one of the toughest gigs out there.  Sounding good isn’t going to be enough to justify a rise in food cost or menu prices, no matter what the studies say.

This guide will explore the business side of the local food movement and address the primary concern any savvy restaurateur has: does this make business sense?

Why Buy Local?

Well, if the 2012 menu trends identified by the National Restaurant Association are any guide, buy local because it’s hot and customers want it.

If trends sound suspiciously like fads to you, then consider some compelling business reasons why investing in locally sourced ingredients make a lot of sense:

  • They are fresher and taste better
  • They allow for greater menu diversity
  • They are a great marketing tool

There are also some good altruistic reasons to purchase local foods, and while altruism never made any business a direct profit, there is a lot to be said about the value your brand name can get from being a community leader.

But back to business.

Restaurant patrons consistently name price and taste as the two single most important elements of a good meal out.  Local ingredients will consistently deliver on taste.  They have traveled less and are closer to ideal harvest conditions, making for a bounty of bright colors, strong smells, and exquisite tastes.

Price is certainly a concern, as large shipments from a big supplier have all the advantages of economy of scale.  Competitively priced comfort food options certainly have a place on any menu, and restaurants can and should shop bulk ingredients for the “value” items on a menu far and wide to find the best price.

Locally sourced foods are most valuable – at least from a business perspective – for the diversity they bring to a menu.  They won’t be the cheapest dishes but they can be the ones that patrons remember and talk about to their family and friends.  Marketed properly, dazzling specials featuring local ingredients can be a key differentiator from the competition.

What To Buy LocallyHow To Source Food Locally: A Business Guide To Success

Every region has agricultural products that thrive there and are even completely unique.  Sourcing locally is about playing to the strengths of local agriculture.  Incorporating the ingredients that do best in the local climate gives the menu a distinct flavor and modifying the menu to match the local rhythms of harvest connects very effectively with customers.

That said, there are common products that can be found in most regions that can be provided by a local source as well.  Many chefs and restaurateurs have even begun creating their own sources by turning vacant lots, rooftops, and other urban spaces into gardens of ingredients.

The most important calculation for a business is weighing the added value that more expensive local ingredients bring versus lower cost alternatives.  If a given dish or special becomes a star because local ingredients make it shine with taste and perceived value, then a higher cost is justified.  If local ingredients are driving up food costs but not translating into additional sales and raving fans, then sourcing definitely needs to be revisited.

Some restaurants have had great success by going all in with local sourcing and only offering local ingredients on their menus.  This has proven to be an effective marketing tool for niche markets that are more tolerant to price.  For the majority of restaurants a hybrid approach will probably be the most effective.

The relationship between marketing value and local ingredients must never be forgotten.  Maximizing that relationship can lead to great success for any restaurant, and the intangible bonuses of improving brand value and community involvement make sourcing ingredients locally a sound business proposition for just about any restaurant.

Where to Buy Local

The following internet resources can aid restaurateurs in their search for quality local ingredients:

The Eat Well Guide  www.eatwellguide.org

USDA Farmer’s Market Directory http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/

Local Harvest http://www.localharvest.org/

Local Dirt http://localdirt.com

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Why Buying Scales Will Save You Money

Why Buying Scales Will Save You MoneyI’m not telling you anything new when I tell you that inventory control is very important in any restaurant.  But I think it’s surprising just how few restaurants view the use of scales as a way to manage shrink and really control how food product is used.  In fact, scales should be the central tool in any restaurant manager’s quest to make sure everything that comes in the restaurant goes out as a finished product a customer is paying for.

The best place to start is with a receiving scale.  As product rolls in the back door off the truck, weigh each bulk item and record the weight.  That way you know exactly how much of each kind of ingredient you have available.  This helps you in two ways:

  1. You’ll know exactly when it’s time to order more product
  2. If you’re out of product, but you only sold X number of entrees that use that product (i.e. not enough of them to be out), inventory shrink is happening, and it’s time to hunt down the culprit

Portion scales are a necessary compliment to your receiving scale.  After all, if you’re measuring what’s coming in but not what’s going out, you’ll have a hard time managing your inventory.  There are two kinds of portion scales: mechanical scales and digital scales.

Mechanical portion scales indicate weights on a large, easy-to-read dial.  These scales are ideal for measuring bulky items that you’re cooking in large quantities, like french fries or chicken wings.  You sacrifice a little bit of accuracy for speed and convenience, which makes sense if you’re just pounding out apps on Super Bowl Sunday.

Why Buying Scales Will Save You Money

Digital portion scales are much more accurate and allow you to measure ingredients with precision.  Use these scales for measuring out the ingredients to your restaurant’s world famous secret sauce, anything that needs to be baked, and other multi-ingredient recipes.  The nice thing about digital scales is that you can reset the tare and calculate ingredient proportions very easily.

For those of you who don’t know, the tare on a scale is a feature that tells the scale to ignore the current weight on the scale and measure additional weight from zero.  In other words, the mixing bowl you put on the scale will weigh zero once you press the tare button and the scale will only register the weight of the ingredients you add to it.

You can measure ingredient proportions on a digital scale easily and much more accurately than with measuring cups because different ingredients compact differently in a measuring cup.  Flour is the best example.  A cup of flour can weigh between 4 and 6 ounces, depending on how compacted it is in the cup.  If you extrapolate that out to 4 cups of flour, you’ve got up to a 50% difference in the weight of the flour.

You can also calculate proportions more easily with a portion scale because you know how much ingredients that are hard to measure with a cup weigh, like eggs.  A recipe for pasta might call for three parts flour to two parts egg.  If two eggs weigh four ounces, then you know you need six ounces of flour.

Finally, scales can help you manage another extremely important inventory item in your restaurant: alcohol.  Use a liquor scale to measure the remaining amount of alcohol in each bottle at the end of the day and record the amount.  I’ve seen managers go through this exercise countless times, but never with a scale.  Usually they just look at the bottle and estimate how much is left.

You depend on alcohol sales to contribute to your bottom line entirely too much for such an inaccurate evaluation of inventory.  A liquor scale takes the guesswork out of the equation and allows you to compare hard numbers with your sales so that you can spot shrink and put a stop to it quickly.

Scales mean accuracy.  Accuracy means less waste.  Less waste means less cost.  Less cost equals more profit.  The equation is as simple as that.

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The Affordable Health Care Act & Restaurants: What To Expect

The Affordable Health Care Act & Restaurants: What To ExpectToday is the big day – the day the Supreme Court begins hearings on the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Many want to see the whole thing repealed, many want to see the whole thing left intact, and most aren’t really all that sure what the whole thing entails besides an individual mandate to carry health insurance.

Regardless of your personal feelings about the legislation, as a restaurateur you are more than likely a small business owner, and as a small business owner you need to understand exactly what’s in store for you in the next couple years, provided the Affordable Health Care Act remains on the books in some form.

What You Need To Know:

The Mandate

The Law:
If you are a business with at least 50 full time employees then you will be required to provide “minimum essential coverage” beginning in 2014 or pay a fine.  Part time employees do not count towards the 50 employee limit and businesses never have to provide minimum coverage to part time employees.

Pro: 50 employees may be an easy threshold to reach but restaurants especially have many part-time employees, making the “mandate” as it were a fairly high threshold to reach for most independent restaurants.

Con:  This mandate puts an unfair burden on businesses with 50 full time employees or more.  It may be cheaper for those businesses to just pay the fine, which means a de facto tax on “medium” sized businesses.

Tax Credits

The Law:
You already qualify for a 35% tax credit on your business’ healthcare premiums if your business has less than 25 employees and their average annual salary is less than $50,000/year.  This tax credit is good between 2010 and 2013; in 2014 the credit increases to 50% for two years.  These businesses must purchase insurance through newly created Exchanges to qualify; the Exchanges are meant to control premium costs and standardize benefits across all insurers.  More info.

Pro: The credit eases the burden on small businesses as they transition to the new Exchange insurance program.

Con:  The tax credit doesn’t offset enough cost or last long enough and not enough businesses qualify.  More info.

Insurance Exchanges

The Law:
New insurance exchanges require insurers to provide insurance for everyone in an employer’s group regardless of health status or preexisting conditions.  These insurance plans are price controlled and have a standardized benefits package.

Pro:  Small businesses will get some form of insurance, no matter what.  The Exchanges also bring premiums down and allow small businesses to enjoy the purchasing power benefits enjoyed by larger companies.

Con:  Insurance Exchanges don’t make the cost of providing health care to employees who did not get health care from their employer in the past any easier to bear.  Either that or pay a fine – both are an increasing cost.

The new law is complicated, to be sure.  And it’s immediate repudiation by the Republican Party makes its future uncertain at best.  In the meantime, however, the provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act continue to phase in, and as they say, knowing is half the battle.

Also, check out the NRA’s Health Care Knowledge Center for more resources pertaining to restaurants.

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Listen To What Customers Aren’t Saying

Listen To What Customers Arent SayingSome of you put customer comment cards on your tables and ask that guests fill them out and let you know how you’re doing.  I could put money on the fact that you receive more complaints on those cards than praise.  Unless someone was given absolutely outstanding service or the food was just phenomenally prepared, your guests aren’t going to take the time to tell you some of the things you really should know.

They might tell you that the potatoes were cold or the salad was wilted, but do they ever mention how the server handled the situation?

Probably not; the server is usually only mentioned as an extra in the bad scene.  That is because servers sometimes act as if everything that goes wrong is the kitchen’s fault.  If we really think about it, they are the last pair of eyes to see the food before it reaches the table; they should have the final say in its appearance.

At the risk of seeming pessimistic, I want to caution you if you don’t have many guests filling out those cards.  It isn’t because everything is always great.  Most of us feel that our comments won’t be taken seriously and nothing will change as a result of our taking the time to fill those cards out.

We have become accustomed to mediocre service at the hands of a young, inexperienced person who thinks that serving food is a better way to make money than selling clothes in a trendy store at the mall.  We have become accustomed to asking for another drink because our server is busy chatting with his/her friends and wants guests to move quicker and leave more money.

We have become accustomed to our servers not having any suggestions about some of the highlights of the menu, in fact, not knowing much about the menu at all!  All of these things we have become accustomed to and therefore we don’t even think about asking for a change.

Most of us don’t know it could be so much better!

Guess what? Your servers don’t know it could be so much better, either.  They are getting the kinds of tips they deserve for their lack of attention to guests and the details that go along with them.  Your guests are giving what they think the service is worth.  When they walk out your door they might tell you that the food was great, or maybe the food was a little less tasty than usual, but they will never tell you that the service was only ok or even bad.

Understand that we live in a society where it isn’t ok to be confrontational and tell someone that they aren’t performing well.  In our politically correct society, if you tell Bob or Jane that you don’t like the way he/she is serving you, you are being rude and demanding.

What guests will do is tell you about the food because they never have to meet your kitchen staff.  They know they may have to deal with the same server again.  We don’t feel like our comments are going to be heard and treated as a comment.  We feel like we’re going to be labeled a nasty customer and treated worse.  Most customers are forgiving and will give you another chance and return.  If, however, they receive the same lack of care in service, they will quietly go away.

Who do your guests tell about their bad experiences?
They tell their friends, family and neighbors.  Sometimes they tell your competition.  And when they find out what I do, they tell me at great length and they insist that I go to you and train your wait staff.  They want to continue dining in your restaurant.  They want it to be more pleasurable than it currently is.  What you see is that your staff is taking orders and getting the food out in a timely manner.  Your guests see that, too.  They want more from a dining experience and they are willing to give more tip money when they get it.

When a server suggests wine or particular dishes and sides to go along with them, your guests don’t perceive them as being pushy.  On the contrary, when done in a professional manner and with some charm and class, they perceive it as great customer service!

Guests may not be able to articulate these ideas to you.  They just know that something is missing.  Ask any businessperson who frequently dines with potential clients and he/she will tell you he/she knows the best places to take someone for smooth, seamless service.  Your staff deserves to know that they could be earning more money.  You could be earning more money because they earn more money.

You can bring these issues up at your next employee meeting, but most servers never think you are talking about him/her.  Another shameless plug for my business!  Allow me to come in and interact with them in some role-playing situations.  They don’t need to be accused of being guilty of bad customer service; they will figure it out for themselves through the course of my class.

Training and information is the key! Contact me, Susie, at Waiter Training, either by phone or email.  My business number is (720) 203-4615, and email address is Susie@waiter-training.com.  Web address is http://www.waiter-training.com.

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Barcraft: How To Fill Your Establishment With Thirsty Geeks

Barcraft: How To Fill Your Establishment With Thirsty GeeksSuperstars you’ve never heard of are playing a professional sport you never knew existed… and video game geeks everywhere are staying home because you decided to show the ball game instead.

Some restaurateurs are finally starting to catch on, like Mad Dog in the Fog in San Francisco, and those that do have tapped a nice extra revenue stream for their business.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, a little background:

The History

Starcraft I was released in 1998 by the same software company that brought us World of Warcraft.  The video game allows players to build and command vast armies of space creatures against other players in real time.

Starcraft I became immensely popular in South Korea, and over the last decade an entire network of competitions, leagues, and fans has sprung up around the game.  Korea even has two TV channels dedicated to broadcasting Starcraft competitions.  Top players even have the same status as professional athletes.

In the U.S., Major League Gaming (MLG) started holding live competitions for a variety of head-to-head video games like Halo, Call of Duty, and of course Starcraft.  These events have attracted a growing following, especially among the under 25 set.

Until recently fans of MLG competitions could only see the action by either attending a live event or streaming to a home computer.  That’s where barcraft comes in.

The Rise Of Barcraft

Barcraft refers to broadcasting a Starcraft or similar video game competition in a bar.  The establishments that have tried it see scores of young and enthusiastic patrons filling seats even on normally slow nights like Sunday.

The best part about broadcasting a live video game competition is the costs are a fraction of the costs of common professional sports packages like NFL Sunday Ticket.  Any restaurateur wanting to host a barcraft event will need a fast internet connection and a little technical know-how to get the ball rolling however.

It’s worth the effort, however.  The finals of a Los Angeles tournament logged 85,000 viewers across the country.  Chances are at least 50 of them live near your establishment – and getting them up off the couch and into a barstool shouldn’t be too hard.

That’s because gamers are excited about being able to share their passion for these tournaments with other gamers for the first time.  Experiencing a thrilling moment with a bar full of like-minded people has long been the reason why thousands of restaurants started drawing football fans every Sunday or baseball fans every October.

Now gamers are getting their moment.

For more information on streaming MLG events visit their website.

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How A Low Flow Valve Can Improve Your Cash Flow (AND Green Cred)

How A Low Flow Valve Can Improve Your Cash Flow (AND Green Cred)

T&S Brass Water Saver Pre-Rinse Spray Valve

Your restaurant uses a lot of water.  Between the water you serve your guests, the ice machine, the dish machine, and the sink, any restaurant goes through a lot of water on a daily basis.  I don’t have to tell you how much that water costs you.  I’m sure you’re reminded every time you look at your monthly utilities bill.

When you go through as much water as a restaurant does in one month, even a small adjustment in daily water usage can make a huge difference in how much money you spend.  And sometimes those small adjustments can be astoundingly easy.

Take, for example, the spray valve on your pre-rinse assembly.  Naturally, you want a strong flow of water so that dishes can be quickly rinsed before they go into the dish machine.  The problem with a strong flow is that a lot of water gets used very quickly, and that costs you money.

In recent years low flow spray valves have become very popular for this very reason.  A low flow valve uses a fraction of the water per minute as older spray valves.  Over the course of a year, a low flow valve can save you thousands of gallons in water usage and therefore hundreds of dollars on utilities.
But will a low flow spray valve clean dishes?  The term “low flow” certainly doesn’t sound like something that powers food bits off very quickly.

How A Low Flow Valve Can Improve Your Cash Flow (AND Green Cred)
It took a company with a reputation like T&S to engineer a low flow valve that didn’t sacrifice any of the performance anyone would expect out of their pre-rinse.  Their new low flow spray valves clean dishes just as quickly or even faster than any other manufacturer.  Even better, T&S low flow spray valves use half the water as the competition, which can translate into as much as 100,000 gallons of water a year.

Making your restaurant more green is so overused these days it’s become cliché.  But when something as simple as changing out the spray valve on your pre-rinse can save you this much money, and bolster your greening efforts at the same time, what’s not to love?  It’s a win-win for your restaurant.

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A Glossary of Restaurant Lingo, Slang & Terms

A Glossary of Restaurant Lingo, Slang & TermsHere’s one of the most complete guides to restaurant lingo, terms and slang – including some that our readers left in the comment section below.

Click these links to jump to a letter to look up a term:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W

And don’t forget to add your own terms to the comment section below!

A

* All Day – The total amount.  If table 12 orders two orders of salmon and table 19 orders four orders of salmon, that’s “six salmon, all day.”

B

* Back of the house – The back end of the restaurant, the kitchen and storage areas, where the chefs, cooks, prep people and dishwashers primarily work.

* Bev Nap – The little square paper napkin which a beverage rests on.

* Brigade System – The kitchen organization system instituted by Auguste Escoffier. Each position has a station and a set of well defined responsibilities.

* Bubble Dancer – A disrespectful name for one of the most valuable and unrecognized of kitchen staff – the dishwasher.

* Buried – See “In the weeds”. Way behind. Overwhelmed.

C

* Cambro – A large plastic pan used for storage of perishables and non-perishables. The term Cambro derives from the company that makes these containers. Also referred to as a Lexan (from a competing company).

* Campers – Customers that hang out at a table all night long and even turning off all the lights doesn’t get rid of them at closing time.

* Can’t cook his/her way out of a paper bag – Someone who can’t cook well, usually applied to describe someone thats a terrible cook/chef but thinks that he or she is the greatest. The origin of this phrase is used for many different things. A good expanation of some is found at: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=28317

* Chef de Partie – Station chefs. In the brigade system, these are the line cook positions, such as saucier, grillardin, etc.

* Commis – An apprentice. A cook who works under the Chef de Partie to learn the station and responsibilities.

* Comp – To give something away free. Usually done by owners or managers to get brownie points from important customers. Also used to smooth over problems. i.e. “Table 12’s chicken was raw!” “Comp the whole table desserts and coffee!”

* Cover – A customer, i.e.”It was a slow night, We only did 20 covers tonight.”

* Credits – An amount that is due back to a restaurant from the vendor for a mispicked, damaged or out of date product.  See mispicked.

* Cremate it or Kill it – To almost burn something or be very overcooked. i.e ” Table 5 wants his burger cremated” extra extra well done.

* Cryovaced – Generally used with meat products, but many dried goods are packed this way to retain freshness. Cryovacing is a process used to remove any excess oxygen from a bag, and than then the bag is heat sealed to make it airtight.  When receiving meat products that have been cryovaced, keep a look out for products that are discolored and brownlooking, this means the airtight seal has been broken and you should send the product back.

D

* Deuce – A table with only two seating spaces. For example, “Seat this deuce at Table 12″ See Top.

* Double – Two shifts in a row.  “I’m exhausted, I just pulled a double.”

* Double/Triple Sat – When more than one table is seated in a particular station at the same time.

* Dupe – The ticket/information that gets submitted to the kitchen so the cooks can cook orders of food.

* Drop the Cheque – Taking a guest’s bill to their table for payment.

* Drop – Start cooking the accompanied item. “The mussels are almost done, better drop the calamari.”

* Drop Food/Order – The moment at which the kitchen begins to prepare a guest’s food or the moment a server delivers an order to the customers. “I just dropped the drinks on table 4.”

* Dying/Dead Plate – Food that is nearly or totally unservable, either due to temperature, appearance, the waitstaff talking to look to pick up from the hot line or wrong ingredients. For example, ‘My shrimps dying in the window because I don’t have veg (accompanying vegetables) to go with it!” Also called beyond in the weeds.

E

* Early Bird – Generally elderly people or tourists who want everything included for very little money. The $12.95 all you can eat buffet.

* Early Bird Special – A cheap meal that is generally available for a limited amount of time when the restaurant opens for service.

* Eighty-six, 86 – “We’re out of Sam’s! (Sam Adams) 86 it!” or the kitchen is out of the item ordered. To remove an item from an order or from the menu because the kitchen or bar is out.

* Expeditor, Expo – Person in charge of organizing food from the kitchen and sending it to the dining room; a mediator of the line.

F

* Fire, Fire it – Order given by the head of the line to the other cooks to begin preparation of certain orders, such as “Fire those shepherds pies!”

* Foodie – (Depending on context) The bane of cooks and chefs everywhere, a Wanna-Be professional cook/chef. There is nothing more irritating then going to a dinner party or meeting at a restaurant with a group of people and there is always at least one “Foodie” attending who proceeds to tell you all about how he/she made the most fabulous chicken dish. etc etc. until you just want to strangle them     ZZZ……………

* Food cost – What a menu item costs to prepare. The cost of a chicken entrée with meat, sauce, vegetables and starch is your food cost. Most restaurants run between a 30-40% food cost, this does not include the cost of overhead that needs to get added in before you start making a profit.

* Front of the house – The front end of the restaurant, the dining room and bar where the customers are served and wait staff, bartenders, bussers and dining room managers primarily work.

G

* Garde-Manger – Pantry chef/station. The postion responsible for cold food preparation, including salads, cold appetizers and plating desserts.

H

* Hockey Puck – A well done hamburger.

I

* In the Weeds – Can have meanings for both the front and back of the house. The kitchen being in the weeds can mean having only one 2 ft by 3 ft grill and having 40 people order medium well steaks in the space of five minutes. In the front of the house, it could mean one server just had two parties of 15 seated at the same time and they all want separate checks.

J

* Jeopardy/Wheel of Fortune Crowd – Early bird diners. Need to be home early or looking for cheap meals that include everything.

K

* Kill it – To make something very overcooked; see Cremate it.

M

* Mispick – An item that is ordered from a vendor that has a label on it that does not match the product it contains.

N

* No Call/No Show – Employee who does not show up and does not call or a Reservation that does not show up and does not call.

* Nuke it – to Microwave.

O

* On a Rail or On the Fly – Something needed quickly, like yesterday.  “I need table 2’s salads on a rail!”  Or, “Give me a well done tender…on the fly.”

* Overhead – The added in factors when you are costing out menu products to make sure you are making a profit. Overhead may include electricity costs, paper and chemical products, employee salaries and any additional costs that may be relevant in serving an item.

P

* Paddy Well – A term used very frequently in Irish Pubs and Restaurants, which means to cook it until there is no possibility of life remaining. The next level above Cremate it.

* Party – A group of people at a table.

* Pittsburgh Rare – Burnt outside, rare inside.

* Pump it out – Getting food out quickly.

* Push- “Sell” it.  Put it in the window or “We only have two orders of sole left, push it.”

R

* Redneck – The non-tipping public, not related to a rural type person, meaning a cheapskate. See stiffs.

* Rollup – Silverware rolled into a napkin, usually linen but can be paper.

S

* Sacked – Fired, usually employees are considered sacked after a major screw up, like serving a banquet of 200 people the $100.00 bottles of Dom Perignon champagne instead of the $12.95 bottles that they were supposed to get.

* Saucier – Sauté Chef/station. The chef de partie responsible for all the sautéed items and their sauces.

* Server – The preferred term for waiter or waitress, for example, “Could you find my server, please, I need a refill on my Pepsi.”

* Shelf life – The amount of time in storage that a product can maintain quality, freshness and edibility.

* Sidework – Work performed by front of the house staff  (e.g., refilling salt and pepper shakers, polishing silverware).

* Shoe – A slacker cook/chef. Someone who doesn’t cook well. The only origin for this word that I know of was told to me by a European Chef I worked for. The term Shoe came from the fact that in Europe most Chefs in the Northern regions wore wooden clogs in the kitchen. A bad or clumsy chef/cook used to stumble alot and was made fun of by the other cooks and chefs.

* Shoe Chef – (The Sous Chef) See Shoe, sometimes accompanied by the phrase “The Shoe Chef at (my restaurant) can’t cook his/her way out of a paper bag.”

* Shorting – An unscrupulous method used by some vendors to charge a restaurant for more product than they actually receive.

* Sizzle Platter – Heavy grade metal oval plate that is used to reheat or cook something in a high temperature oven.

* Skate – Leaving without doing sidework.

* Slammed – Busy.  See “In The Weeds”.  Perhaps not as out of control as “in the weeds”.

* Sommelier – Wine Steward or wine waiter.

* Sous Chef – Generally the second in command in a kitchen; there can be an Executive Sous Chef, generally found in a larger kitchen with a lot of staff. The Sous Chef runs the kitchen when it’s the Chef’s day off or he/she is not available.

* Starch – Starch can be potatoes, rice, grain or pasta, the other accompaniment besides the “Veg” to an plated meal.

* Station – The set number of tables waited on by a particular server.

* Stiffed – A customer has left the restaurant without tipping the server.

* Stiffs – Non-tipping customers, see redneck.

* Still Moving or Still Mooing – Ultra rare, “they want the tender (tenderloin) still Mooing.”

* Stretch It – To make four orders of hollandaise sauce last through an entire shift by “stretching it” with whatever is available and edible.

T

* Table Turn – Number of times a table has had the full revolution of service from being seated to getting the check and then reset for the next group of customers.

* Tare – The weight of a container that the product from a vendor is delivered in. This weight should legally be deducted from the actual weight of the product. See shorting.

* Tender – A tenderloin.

* The Man, the Boogie Man – Health Inspector. “Wash your hands, The Man is here!” “Better mop the walk-in, the Boogie Man’s coming in 10 minutes.”

* Top – The number in a dining party. For example, an eight top is a dining party of eight. A three top is a party of three.

* Toss – An unscrupulous method used by some vendors to make a box look like its full of product.

* Totes – Plastic containers that are usually used to deliver fish. They are frequently rectangular but sometimes square or round. Totes are horded by kitchen staff because once washed and sanitized, they make excellent airtight storage containers for just about anything.

* Tourne – Vegetables that are cut to resemble a small, slightly tapered cork, but instead of being smooth they are cut to have seven equally large facets. Generally root vegetables, potatoes, carrots, but sometimes zucchini or other soft vegetables are used. Traditionally, they are boiled, steamed or roasted.

* Turn & Burn – Turn a table quickly (usually because there is a long waiting list for tables). see Table Turn

* Tron – Old 80’s slang for a waiter or waitress.

* Two second rule – The amount of time between when a piece of food hits the floor and when it’s picked up and placed in a sauté pan or on a plate, generally accompanied by a guilty look to see if anyone else saw it.

U

* Upsell – To suggest a higher priced item. “I’d like a glass of merlot, please.”  suggesting Iron Horse at $6.00 a glass as opposed to the house vino at $4.00 a glass.

V

* Veg – The vegetable accompaniment to a plated meal.

* VIP – A very important customer, perhaps well known and deserving of extra special treatment. Food critics fall into this category. Generally accompanied by many Comps.

W

* Waitron – Coined in late ’80’s to avoid using “sexist” terms “Waiter/Waitress”. Was replaced in the ’90’s by Server.

* Walk-in – A refrigerated room for cold storage of perishable items.

* Walked – A customer has left without paying the bill or a employee get fed up and just left in the middle of their shift.

* Window – A shelf, usually heated and connected to the kitchen, upon which the food is placed after preparation and awaiting delivery to the table.

* Well drinks – “Well” drinks are made from the inexpensive house liquors on hand. i.e. If you ask for a unspecified gin and tonic you will get whatever gin they serve as opposed to a Tanqueray and tonic.

Add your restaurant slang terms in the comments below!

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5 Ways Servers Steal Your Money

5 Ways Servers Steal Your MoneyA server stealing from their restaurant is nothing new. Each year this happens thousands of times. It is also very seldom reported in the media. Most of these things are handled in house which means that you have no idea if the employee you just hired was fired from their last three jobs for theft. When it does hit the media it is disastrous for the restaurant. Even though the restaurant did the right thing by prosecuting the thief, the confidence of a restaurant’s customer base can be rocked for some time.

The best case scenario in this situation is always to catch the scam before it spreads. One server successfully executing a scam can lead to others following suit. This can mean an epidemic of theft that robs you of both money and a good portion of your staff.

Most people are honest and will not steal. The perfect storm of watching others benefit from the scam and thinking it is harmless to a large corporation provides justification to otherwise honest servers. Knowing how to catch these scams before they cost your restaurant money and staff is vital.

Here are 5 basic scams to watch out for:

1. The Penny Trick

This scam dates back well before my time in restaurants. A bartender places a penny, paper clip, or other item in the bar drawer each time they don’t ring in a cash drink. This is generally done with the same drink so the bartender can multiply the price of the drink by the number of items to know how much to pull from the drawer and place in their pocket.

The way to catch this one is simple. Most registers now have a large “no sale” message on the screen when the drawer is opened to make change. If money goes in the drawer at this point, there may be a problem. Bar drawers should be audited for any irregularities. No personal items should be allowed behind the bar. This also will prevent the theft of a bottle. The first line of defense though is to not have your drink prices end in even numbers. $3.00 draws including tax might be easier on your guests, but it also makes it easy for a thief.

2. Post Payment Adjustments

This one might be the most common and the most costly. Servers will ask the manager for an adjustment (comp, void, coupon, etc) to a check. What the manager does not know is that the table has already left and paid in cash. The server pockets the difference in the check before and after discount. This is increasingly common with the number of coupons and discounts offered entice guests to dine in a slow economy.

While it is the most common, it is also the easiest to combat. As soon as a manager does one of these discounts, they should visit the table. If the table is not there or has just started the meal, further investigation is required. This is also a great opportunity for a table touch anyway to ask how they got the coupon and when you will see them back.

3. The Buffet Trick

I knew of this trick before I waited my first table. At a restaurant where a ticket is not required to get food from the kitchen, a server will simply drop the check of a previous table with an identical tab. This is most common on salad bars and buffets. The restaurant is out the food and the server pockets the entire check.

If you run a buffet style restaurant and do not have procedures in place to combat this, this is most likely already happening. The simplest protocol here is to match the number of guests to the number the server charges for. I have seen this done in a number of ways, but the easiest is matching serial numbers on two chits. One is placed on the table by the host and retained by the server. The other is kept at the host stand. At the end of the night the numbers are matched to insure every meal is accounted for.

4. The Floating Soda

This is another old scam that should be addressed by modern POS systems. A server charges a table for their meal and their soda. If the table pays with cash, the soda is transferred to another table prior to closing the tab. This allows the server to pocket the price of a single soda numerous times. While this may not seem substantial, over time it adds up.

Your POS system should not allow servers to transfer any item without manager approval. Honest mistakes do happen and sometimes a manager will need to do this. Choosing not to make this task the manager’s responsibility is the equivalent of allowing it to occur. No matter how much you trust your staff, this temptation should be eliminated. Sodas should also be set up as a separate tracking category and servers with low soda sales should draw special attention.

5. Padding Checks

This one is the toughest to catch, but the most dangerous to your reputation. The restaurant is not directly out any money on this scam. Instead the server simply adds an extra drink to the guest’s tab. This is usually done with the same drink the guest is already having. The guest chalks it up to having one more than they thought and pays the bill without question. The server consumes the drink and continues to serve their guests.

This one is tough to catch because it will not show up on any report. The effects can be wildly felt though. If the guest catches it, they will raise hell. The number of people a scammed guest will tell dwarfs the number in the old adage about unhappy guests telling more people than a happy guest. You also are now left with a drunk server on your floor. Clear plastic cups for employee drinks and frequent communication with your servers throughout the night is the best way to catch this scam.

This is most certainly only a partial list. It does not include short-term scams that will be caught within the week. An employee that is trying to steal from you will show incredible ingenuity. Knowing how to prevent these most common ones will make it far more difficult. The key is deterrence and preventing the spread before it costs your restaurant money, staff, and reputation.

Read how to deal with a thief once you catch them.

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Why Food Service Should (And Is) Dictating Agriculture Policy

Why Food Service Should (And Is) Dictating Agriculture PolicyYou don’t have to be a tree hugger to realize industrial agriculture creates some pretty cruel situations for animals.  “Gestation crates” are a perfect example – a two foot by seven foot cage that is used to confine sows at large pig farms – of ways cutting costs have led to some pretty poor practices.

In a way it’s our own fault.

Every restaurant manager wants to keep food margin high – that’s where the profits are.  And that means demanding lower prices from suppliers.  Suppliers work hard to oblige us – otherwise we’ll find someone who will meet our demand for lower prices, right?

Well, when they lower prices for us they cut corners.  And that leads to gestation crates.

But some suppliers have decided enough is enough.  The trend was started a few weeks back by Bon Appetit, a large food service provider on college campuses and other institutions.  Compass Group, an even larger food service provider, quickly followed suit.

As consumer awareness of the practices of large industrial agriculture grows, so will the demand for humanely raised food products like pork, poultry, and eggs.
That means all food service operators would do well to stay ahead of the curve on this one and make sure they are sourcing livestock that is raised ethically.
It also means a rise in food costs.

But that doesn’t have to necessarily translate into reduced profits.  Sourcing ethically raised and locally grown meats can be a powerful component of any restaurant’s marketing strategy.  Studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for locally grown, ethically raised ingredients when they dine out, and that means you can get away with passing a good portion of the higher cost of those ingredients to your customer and drive new business at the same time.

Consumers vote with their wallets all the time, and the businesses that are able to spot how those votes are trending are the ones who succeed where others fail.  Chipotle is a great example – they have continued to grow at breakneck speed throughout the Great Recession; during a time when consumers scaled back spending on a massive scale, $9 burritos sold like hotcakes.

Why? Because everyone knows how much time Chipotle puts into sourcing the best ingredients money can buy.  It’s not that consumers don’t want to spend $9 on lunch.  They simply demand that they spend $9 on a very good lunch.

No matter what segment of the food service industry you’re in, local, ethical ingredient sourcing can pump up not only the quality of your product but the volume of your sales.  And you just might feel good about yourself in the process.  All the way to the bank.

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